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Using paleolandscape modeling to explore 1100 years of anthropogenic burning at Trout Meadow, Sequoia National Forest, USA

Authors: Anna Klimaszewski-Patterson*, California State University - Sacramento, Scott Mensing, University of Nevada, Reno
Topics: Paleoenvironmental Change, Anthropocene, Biogeography
Keywords: Landscape modeling, paleoecology, Native Americans, anthropogenic burning, Sierra Nevada, Anthropocene
Session Type: Paper
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


People have used fire to alter landscapes across North America for millennia, and though ethnographic records indicate regular fire use by Native Californians, the records do not specify the frequency, extent, or quantity of that fire use as a land management tool. Previous paleoecological work done at Holey Meadow (HLY) and Trout Meadow (TRT) in Sequoia National Forest, California (Klimaszewski-Patterson and Mensing 2016, Klimaszewski-Patterson 2016) indicated two periods of forest composition (1550-1050 and 750-100 cal yr BP) that were inconsistent with climatic expectations over the last 2000 years. The authors suggested that because of a disconnect between expected climatic forest response and the observed pollen record, these periods exhibited qualitative signals of anthropogenic fires set by Native Californians. We use the forest succession landscape model LANDIS-II to independently investigate the type of fire regimes present at TRT focusing on the last 1100 years, building on previous modeling efforts done at HLY (Klimaszewski-Patterson et. al 2018). We test whether climatic fires alone can explain changes in the observed paleoecologic record at TRT, or if the addition of Native American-set surface fires better approximates the record. Simulated vegetation outputs from LANDS-II were compared to the pollen record at TRT. Modeled scenarios of climatic fires alone did not appear to fully explain changes observed in the paleorecord, especially during the Little Ice Age (750-100 cal yr BP). Modeled scenarios at TRT show greater statistical correlation and consistency with the observed pollen record when Native American-set surface fires are applied.

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